Explore the Ria Formosa Natural Park, Algarve’s Best Kept Secret

Ria Formosa is a stunning natural wetland of international importance, and it’s a true wonder to behold. Made up of a large network of barrier islands and inlets that are formed from ever-shifting sandbanks, the area is a maze of canals, islands and marshes, and home to a wealth of fauna.

Such a unique ecosystem must be appreciated and protected, so here at Lands, we ensure that any and all experiences and tours we offer are ecologically responsible. All our guides are biologists and they can answer any questions you may have about this wondrous park.

So what is there to discover here?

Solar Boats in Ria Formosa islands - Faro Algarve

Ria Formosa is a Birdwatcher’s Paradise

Ria Formosa is one of the most important bird areas in Portugal. In the winter, it hosts over 30,000 birds and it is also a part of the migration routes that birds take between Europe and Africa. Its unique ecology makes it the perfect place for birds to take shelter and breed.

Purple Moorhen or Swamphen

Ria Formosa is home to many bird species such as Spoonbills, White Storks, Egrets and Flamingos and many more. A sharp-eyed birdwatcher may spot the rare Purple Swamphen, which has become the symbol of the park.

If you would like some help finding all the special and unique bird species in the area, then we have you covered with our Ria Formosa Birdwatching Tour from Faro.

Ria Formosa is a Haven for Outdoor Activities

Ria Formosa is a place for exploration. With its ever-changing waterways and its rich animal life, there are many things to enjoy and the Ria Formosa will always be slightly different on every trip.

There are a lot of ways to explore the Natural Park, from a Guided Walking Tour to enjoying the water on a Kayaking Tour from Faro.

And if you want to explore the lagoon further or birdwatch from a new perspective, then you can also enjoy an Eco-Boat Tour.

Experience the Local Flavour

The shallow waters of the Ria Formosa lagoon make it the perfect nursery for a lot of oceanic species. As such, you will likely see shellfish farmers hard at work in the tidal flats of the park. This area provides nearly 80% of Portugal’s clam exports.

And if you venture to the Salinas of Ria Formosa you will see another local product – salt.

steamed clams

Step into the Past in Faro

Beyond the Ria Formosa Natural Park, the Old Town of Faro is beautifully preserved and well worth exploring. Be sure to visit the Cathedral and climb the bell tower as this is where you will get a gorgeous view of both Faro and the Ria Formosa.

Narrow streets and whitewashed buildings in the Old Town in Faro, Portugal

After seeing the Nature Park from Faro, it is worth heading over to Cacela Velha; a charming old whitewashed village at the easternmost edge of the Ria Formosa. Here you will certainly get a sense of what the Algarve was like half a century ago. The village is perched on a cliff allowing for stunning views of the lagoon.

Ria Formosa is Not Just for the Birds

Whilst the Nature Park is famed for its outstanding bird population, there are other animals to discover here as well.

Ria Formosa is home to one of the largest seahorse populations in the world, and it is also home to some endangered species such as the Mediterranean chameleon.

A chameleon amidst greenery

Perhaps more famously, the area is the ancestral home of the Portuguese Water Dog, which was almost threatened with extinction a few decades ago.

A Wonder Close to Other Wonders

The Ria Formosa is an absorbing place that you could spend a lot of time exploring. But, should you want to take a break from this unique place, you’ll be pleased to find it is close to many other great locations.

We cover a few must-visit spots in our blog 10 Landscapes You Can’t Miss, and our guides will always be happy to give you tips and ideas of other places to head to during your holiday.

View of Ria Formosa from Cacela Velha - Algarve

We hope you’re inspired to explore this truly unique landscape and find out more about what makes it so special. If any of our tours caught your eye or if you have any questions about the Algarve and Ria Formosa, then don’t hesitate to get in touch. An incredible, sustainable journey awaits you!

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